Gerald Giam / Deputy Editor
As August 9th draws near, springing up all over the island are posters of smiling People’s Action Party Members of Parliament (MP) and Government ministers wishing Singaporeans a Happy National Day. While this might be a regular sight that Singaporeans have been conditioned to accept all these years, I question its necessity.
Like most other Singaporeans, I love National Day and the festivities that come with it. Singapore has achieved much over the past 43 years and we have much to be proud of and grateful for.
But why is there a need for politicians to splash their faces across every other National Day poster? In my little sub-constituency of Canberra in Sembawang GRC, I have counted at least two giant sized billboards.
When I travel through Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Timah and Tanjong Pagar, almost every other lamp post on the main roads is decked with smiling pictures of PAP politicians superimposed on pictures of children. The main intersection of each town has a giant billboard with all the MPs in the GRC waving, some even with their names and titles labelled on their photos, lest any resident forgets.
One huge billboard in Joo Chiat even has a politician with his fist clenched across his chest, as if reciting the Pledge. (Picture right).
The purpose of these billboards is quite clear: to give the MPs more visibility so that residents will recognize them and hopefully vote for them at the next elections.
I am guessing all these posters and billboards are not paid out of PAP coffers, but from town council funds — to which I contribute over $740 each year.
I emailed Sembawang Town Council and Tanjong Pagar Town Council to ask, but they did not reply. Strange, since my town council has always been very prompt in replying to the municipal problems I have raised.
Is this a prudent use of my hard-earned money, particularly in a time of a slowing economy and high inflation? Why should my town council payments be used to further my MP’s political interests?
Worse, some giant billboards are lit up the entire night with bright spotlights. What happened to our eco-friendly drive? And what about the cost of the electricity used, keeping in mind that the prices of fuel have increased recently.
In fact, some of these posters look no different from election posters sans the lightning symbol. Doesn’t the Parliamentary Elections Act prohibit election advertising outside of the campaign period?
I do not see posters of MPs in opposition wards of Potong Pasir and Hougang. In Potong Pasir, there are some posters, but without Chiam See Tong’s face. Hougang has a simple landscaped display of the Singapore flag along Avenue 2 – and no, Low Thia Khiang’s picture is not included either.
Views of other Singaporeans
I checked with a Singaporean friend living in the US whether such banners and posters appeared on the 4th of July, America‘s Independence Day. There were none in the city where she lives.
She emailed me, “I personally think that the banners…look hideous and distasteful. When I tried to raise this matter up with someone a long time ago, I remember being told off that those posters were being targeted at the heartlanders.”
She added, “To put banners like the one you sent me…when there is no GE (General Election) near in sight, that’s definitely propagandistic”.
Another friend, who works in the media, told me: “It gets very confusing here. Can’t tell the difference between country, state, government and ruling party.”
I would like to suggest that the PAP and its town councils immediately stop the use of public funds to promote their partisan causes. For a start, all the spotlights for the billboards should remain off at night to save electricity.
I hope our ruling party MPs realise that National Day is a day of celebration for the whole nation, not a season to honour themselves.
Click on pictures to enlarge.———